14 Spices To Give Your Smoothies A Delicious Finishing Touch

We're all longing to eat healthier. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, healthier also means flavorless. These days, everything delicious also seems to be bad for you. Salt can contribute to high cholesterol, sugar is one of the leading causes of diabetes, and butter can be fattening. It's a sad world when all we're left with is sugar substitutes and non-fat milk. But just because we want to be healthy, doesn't mean we have to lose flavor as well, especially when creating a perfect smoothie.

Sure, full-fat yogurt is a necessity for that creamy texture, but after that, there are plenty of ways to make a breakfast smoothie great. Fresh fruit brings sweetness, veggies add vitamins, and combining the two fulfills the daily requirement all adults are supposed to ingest to maintain a healthy lifestyle. After that, you can be as creative as you want. 

Protein powder and vitamins make it healthier, while nuts or seeds add crunch and fiber. But if you really want a flavor bomb, add fresh spices. Depending on the spice you use, not only do you get a blast of flavor, but you also get some sweet health benefits. Below are 14 of our favorites. Some you may already use, but we're pretty sure there are a few that will surprise you.

1. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is that spice that seems to go with everything. Add it to oatmeal and apple pie for spicy sweetness or Indian dishes for warmth. It also goes quite well when sprinkled on top of a piping-hot mug of cocoa or brewed into a cup of coffee. It's so good, we want to add it to everything we can, from savory dinners to sweet desserts. But since there's only a certain amount you can safely eat each day, you should probably just add a touch. The best way to do that? Add it to your smoothie

Not only will you get that warm spiciness that reminds us of the holidays at home, but the health benefits are also bountiful as well. Cinnamon is full of antioxidants and can lower cholesterol. It's also been known to reduce both cancer cells and blood sugar. 

But since we're really adding the cinnamon for flavor, it's best to know which cinnamon to use. Yes, there are actually several types of cinnamon, but only four that we use regularly: Ceylon, Cassia, Korintje, and Saigon. While all four have that warm spiciness we know and love, it's the Ceylon that hits the sweet spot of the palate. Because of its sweeter flavor, Ceylon is the cinnamon that's commonly found in cinnamon rolls and Mexican hot chocolate and should be the version used in your smoothie.

2. Vanilla

While there are several spices on this list that you probably have in your pantry, if you're a baker, there is absolutely no doubt that you have a bottle of vanilla extract. You may even have a bag of vanilla beans up on the shelf. It's the spice that confirms those cookies, bars, pies, and cupcakes are scrumptious — the one that assures a dessert is really a dessert. So, if you want to push that smoothie into the sweets territory, cut open that pod and scrape out those beans. But if you don't have the bean, don't fret, a few drops of extract will also imbue that wonderful vanilla essence; just make sure it's pure. Artificial extracts are usually made from chemicals and so could give your smoothie an unappetizing artificial flavor. 

If you have vanilla beans though — no matter if they're from, Mexico, Madagascar, Tahiti, or Indonesia — they would be your best choice for your smoothie. You could even combine the beans for a deeper vanilla taste. As a matter of fact, adding vanilla is a simple way to turn that veggie-filled morning sludge into a sweet breakfast treat that will make even the crabbiest person happy.

3. Cardamom

Cardamom is a spice that also veers into the sweet territory, but isn't as common as the first two. While on the sweeter side, cardamom is subtler than both cinnamon and vanilla and has distinct floral notes as well as a little bit of citrus. Adding this spice to your smoothie will enhance those fruit flavors while adding a wonderful scent that reminds you of spring days and super blooms. But turning that smoothie into a spring delight means picking the right version, as there are several options available out there. The spice can be found in pod, powder, or capsule form, and even comes in both green and black

Originally from India, cardamom is known as the queen of spice because of its flavor and health benefits. This spice started out as the base for many ailments. It was (and still is) used to help ease stomach issues, lower blood pressure, and can even freshen your breath. While we wouldn't recommend imbibing a morning smoothie as an alternative to brushing your teeth, blending one up for lunch or as a late afternoon snack will not only wake you up, it'll give your breath a new lease on life that will probably get you through to bedtime. 

4. Nutmeg

Ever sprinkle nutmeg over your eggnog or add it to a thick bechamel sauce? Used frequently as a finishing spice that adds a hint of nuttiness, it's an essential spice that should absolutely be part of your pantry.  While you've probably added it to your pie fillings and mulled wines, don't dismiss it for your smoothie. Sprinkling the spice over the top will add flavor and look beautiful, but blending it into the drink in something like a sweet potato smoothie is the better choice. 

If you simply dust the spice over the top as a garnish, you'll only taste the nutmeg in the first few sips. But adding a teaspoon or two to your blender before pureeing with the rest of your ingredients guarantees that a warm, nutty flavor will be present in each and every sip. 

While you could grab that bottle of nutmeg sitting on your shelf, grinding it immediately with either a mortar and pestle or Microplane is definitely the way to go. Grinding it right before use will ensure an even more intense flavor because you'll get those rich oils which are where most of the nutmeg flavor comes from.

5. Cloves

Another spice often used during the holidays is cloves. Dark brown spikes that look like a miniature weapon from the 15th century, this spice is often found turning oranges into pomanders and ground up as part of spice blends for apple and pumpkin pies. But it's also frequently used in mulled ciders and wines. A popular spice for holiday drinks, it deserves some time in the summer sun rather than being relegated to the back of the spice drawer until November and December. 

With warm sweetness and a sharp bite, cloves pair well with a variety of citrus as well as apples and pears. Yes, these fruits are freshest during the fall and winter when they're in season but are available all year long. However, because cloves tend to be significantly sharper than their holiday peers, cinnamon, and nutmeg, a lighter hand is better suited when adding it to drinks and sauces. If you add too much, the spice will overpower the other flavors in the smoothie rather than enhance them. While cloves tend to be more acrid, you still want to include them in your smoothies because they're known to help with diabetes and cancer since they're high in antioxidants, per Medical News Today

6. Poppy seeds

You've seen this next spice covering bagels, woven into muffins, and sprinkled over yogurt parfaits. It comes from a beautiful flower, has a wonderful texture, and boasts a mild nutty flavor. It's the poppy seed. This may seem like an odd spice to include in smoothies, but why not? While it's true it may not dissolve into the yogurt and juices that comprise your morning beverage, the seed will still impart all its nutrient goodness simply by ingesting it. 

Although some of the spices on this list help with physical ailments, the poppy seed seems to aid more with mental health. It's used frequently to help with insomnia and improve cognitive functioning, per Net Meds. But it's also been used to reduce stress and limit anxiety. So, adding a spoonful or two to your smoothie before a big meeting or presentation might be a good idea. There's just one thing to remember when ingesting the poppy seed: It comes from the poppy which is the flower that also produces opium. So, eating too much of it could lead you to test positive for opioids. 

7. Fennel Seeds

Fennel is one of those spices that goes with anything from savory to sweet thanks to its subtle, sweet licorice-like flavor. While you often find it in rubs for meat as well as soups and stews, it can and should be added to your smoothie. But don't confuse the seed with anise, as the two have several differences. Anise is significantly more pungent which is why fennel works better in smoothies. You'll still get that licorice flavor without it overpowering the rest of your ingredients. And since it works with sweet and savory ingredients, it'd be great with a fruit-heavy or vegetable-heavy smoothie, especially if your vegetables include cucumbers and any variety of lettuce. 

Adding fennel seeds, crushed or whole, to your smoothie will also help with digestion and improve your skin's appearance by reducing acne and rosacea, according to PharmEasy. But if you happen to be a nursing mother, then you definitely want to add a spoonful or two of fennel seeds to your smoothies as they're known to promote lactation thanks to the fennel's anethole, which mimics estrogen.

8. Ginger

If you're looking for a sharp bite that will help with that hangover, then a ginger smoothie should be part of your morning ritual. While a teaspoon or two of ground ginger helps with nausea, motion sickness, and food poisoning (per Humana), a few slices of fresh ginger will not only provide those same remedies, they'll give you a spicy kick in the taste buds to wake you up after a long night out (which might be the cause of the morning's nausea).

Originally found in Middle Eastern recipes, ginger has made its way to the States and is frequently used in recipes from cookies to curries. You can even find it dipped in chocolate or covered in sugar for a spicy after-dinner treat. But if you want an easy way to incorporate the spicy root into your daily routine, adding it to your morning coffee or smoothie is the way to go. And considering it pairs well with everything from apples to carrots and limes to sweet potatoes, along with a variety of other spices on this list, you could enjoy a different smoothie every morning and still have a wonderful wake-up call. 

9. Turmeric

Similar in appearance to ginger, turmeric is that bright orange root that stains everything it touches a brilliant orange. While it may look like ginger's fraternal twin, the bright orange spice is significantly subtler in taste. There's still an essence of ginger since it's part of the ginger family, but the flavor tends to be more herbal and earthy with just a hint of spice. 

But the real reason to add this spice to your smoothie over all others is that it's considered one of if not the healthiest spices in the world. Used to combat cancer, heart attacks, and strokes, turmeric can also ease stiff joints and speed up the healing process. 

Because this spice hails from India and Vietnam, it's no surprise that it melds so well with both coconut milk and plain yogurt, two ingredients commonly found in Middle Eastern cuisine and great additions to your smoothie. As a matter of fact, using coconut milk and citrus along with the turmeric will give the creamy drink a tropical feel that will transport you to the beaches of Morocco.

10. Cumin

If you're looking to give your smoothie a more earthy, smoky flavor, try adding a spoonful of cumin. This olive green spice is commonly used in savory Mexican recipes but can also be found in rich spaghetti sauces and chilis and is a main component of the Indian spice mixture, garam masala. Often used with coriander, the real difference between the two is that this spice has more bitter notes.

If it's bitter, why would you add it to your smoothie? For the health benefits and because it pairs so well with apples, beets, carrots, and honey. It really brings out the sweetness in these specific produce thanks to its vegetal taste. As for the benefits, there are several. According to Medical News Today, it helps with weight and memory loss and can be used to reduce stress as well. While you can find cumin sold in both its whole and ground form, the best way to get these healthful properties is if it's ground. The powder version not only incorporates into a smoothie more efficiently, but our bodies will also be able to fully absorb the spice as well. 

11. Coriander

Often used with cumin, coriander looks and tastes completely different. Where whole cumin is long and thin, coriander is small and round. Once crushed, the powder looks very similar but coriander is the sweeter spice with hints of citrus, and once toasted, has a nutty flavor as well. 

While cumin is commonly used in savory dishes, coriander can be used in both savory and sweet recipes which means it would be a great addition to your smoothie no matter if it's fruit-forward or vegetable-heavy. You actually should start using it in sweeter drinks and meals because the coriander adds a depth to fruit that you just won't achieve without it. And the best produce to use with it? The same fruits and vegetables you'd include in a smoothie made with cumin. As a matter of fact, you could easily add both these spices to your smoothie and end up with a wonderful drink that makes you feel like you're lounging at an oasis in the middle of the Sahara. But if you choose to use coriander, make sure it's been ground up recently as the longer the powder sits, the faster it loses its flavor.

12. Black pepper

We know that pepper seems like an odd choice for a smoothie as it's usually reserved for soups, stews, salads, proteins ... pretty much any recipe that requires salt and a variety of herbs and spices. But pepper has started showing up in desserts as well. Sure, pepper has a serious bite to it, but it's that bite that pairs so well with acids. Acids like those that come from citrus. Oranges, lemons, and limes aren't the only fruits that pepper goes with though. You should be adding it to strawberries and cherries as well, as it enhances the sweetness of those fruits while providing a nice kick, and don't we all need a little wake-up call in the morning to get our day going?

But pepper won't just wake up your senses, it will wake up your brain as well since it's been known to help brain activity and lower depression (per UPMC) as well as improve memory, something most of us need help with every so often. But this little black spice doesn't stop there, it also helps fight cancer and increases the good cholesterol which we all want because that HDL helps diminish the bad cholesterol. So, before you relegate that black pepper to the savory section of your spice drawer, consider adding it to your fruit smoothie. You may even make it sweeter in the process.

13. Cayenne pepper

If black pepper doesn't provide the heat you're looking for first thing in the morning (or throughout the day), then try adding one or two teaspoons of cayenne pepper to your smoothie. Cayenne ranks between 30,000 and 50,000 units on the Scoville scale which is about 20,000 units higher than black pepper. The Scoville Scale was created by pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912 and every pepper from the unspicy green Bell to the burn-your-tongue-off Carolina Reaper is on it. (The Carolina ranks at about 2.2 million units.) So, while cayenne certainly isn't the spiciest pepper in the world, it will definitely sound some alarms. But it will also brighten those lemons and oranges as well as those anti-oxidant-filled berries we all love throwing in our smoothies. 

Even though all that heat might turn you off, it really is worth adding to your blended drinks. Yes, it wakes up your senses but the capsaicin in the pepper also gets your metabolism moving. It's also a great pain reliever, especially for those that suffer from arthritis, per Pepper Scale.

14. Saffron

Have you ever dreamed of being royalty? Well, a smoothie with saffron in it will probably get you one step closer. At least it'll make you feel like royalty. Considered to be the most expensive spice out there, saffron has been around for centuries. Often used for its flavor as well as its dying properties, saffron is another spice that you should definitely have on hand in your pantry

Unlike most of the spices on this list which can simply be added as is to your blender, saffron threads should be bloomed first. Blooming is when you add the saffron threads to a few tablespoons of hot or cold water and let the spice steep for several minutes. The end result is an aromatic liquid that's full of sweet, floral flavor and can be added to any of your recipes, including a smoothie. While there are bitter notes to the saffron threads, the earthiness works well with most green vegetables and plenty of citrus.